New Hospital Ranking System Measures Unnecessary Treatments

Lown Hospital Index Measures Hospital Performance

We like to rate everything — pizza, movies, even apps like Tinder and Bumble let us choose dates based on other’s looks. So it tracks that eventually, people would put their heads together and come up with a rating system for something that matters like hospitals. 

That’s what the folks at the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on all things health, has done. They call it the Lown Hospital Index, and it’s a comprehensive index that rates hospitals based on three major categories: Patient Outcome, Value of Care, and Civic Leadership. 

The Index has been in the works for two years. According to Senior Vice President at the Lown Insitute, Shannon Brownlee, MSc, it was an immense undertaking that required multiple, large databases and navigating through an industry that Brownlee regards as not being known for its transparency. 

Another challenge was developing metrics that matter. Within the three categories mentioned above, Lown analyzes 42 specific parameters, such as patient satisfaction, mortality rates, pay equity, how a hospital interacts with the surrounding community, and whether a hospital is actively thinking about a patient’s best interest.   

“One important metric that has not been measured before for individual hospitals is how often hospitals deliver unnecessary treatments and tests, explains Brownlees. “A patient who comes to the hospital because they have fainted generally does not need an MRI or CT scan. We found that at many hospitals, patients who fainted were getting an unnecessary head imaging test. Unnecessary services put patients at needless risk of harm, but they also waste money and resources.”

In 2012, an article published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery suggested that despite efforts to improve patient safety and reduce preventable harm, hospitals were no closer to doing so than in the 1990s. One of the critical reasons for that stagnation, the article said, was a failure to measure patient safety. The Lown Hospital Index takes this problem and presents a solution that goes above and beyond. 

The efficacy of the Index is two-fold. It both informs the patient on which hospitals excel in specific categories and educates them on aspects of healthcare that may not have been on their mind. Second, the Lown Hospital Index compels hospitals to look at their operations and provides administrators who know there are issues with the data and insight they need to drive real change. 

“[Hospitals] need to excel in all three categories,” Brownlee says. “We know that it’s possible because the Index shows there are hospitals that are doing it. We acknowledge that It’s not easy for hospitals to do well on all three categories because our reimbursement system rewards them for chasing well-insured patients and doing elective surgeries. Our ranking allows hospital administrators to advocate for changes in how their services are paid for and how hospital resources are allocated so that all of them can be great.”

The Index, which officially launched today, lets the user search for hospitals by area, hospital size, hospital type (teaching, non-teaching, church-affiliated, etc.), or by one of the Lown metrics. Click here to view the Index. 


Andrew Gutman

Andrew Gutman is the managing editor of BarBend. He is a former associate editor at Muscle & Fitness and has contributed to Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, and Spartan Race.


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